Monday, August 28, 2023

A peep inside… Part 2: LEAVES OF ABSENCE

A peep inside another of the books on the studio table in my blog post of Tuesday August 22, A tabletop of artist books.

The unbound artist book LEAVES OF ABSENCE, 2017, continues my exploration of women’s hidden histories, of which far too many remain tantalisingly buried. Its point of departure is the Australian Gold Rushes, a historic period from which Chinese women were all but absent. In 1861, Chinese immigrants made up 3.3 per cent of the population. Of these, 38,337 were men, compared to only eleven women. Despite considerable delving on my part, the lives of the women who remained in China remain a mystery. 

The following is an edited version of my speech at the launch of LEAVES OF ABSENCE at Melbourne Atheneum Library in November 2017. 

… In Newstead alone, there were over 3000 Chinese miners. The Eucalyptus leaves in LEAVES OF ABSENCE were sourced there because of their significance to the project but also because of their singular shapes - in part the result of interventions by my 'insect collaborators', the Eucalyptus tip bugs. So invaluable was their contribution, they rate a special mention on the book’s colophon page.

In my work, silhouettes are principally metaphors for marginalization or invisibility... 

…The enchanting fairy tale films of German born silhouette animation pioneer 
Lotte Reiniger (1889-1981) are a key influence on all my work with silhouettes. Influences entirely specific to this project include early photography and silent film. Contrary to popular belief, not all of the first moving images were in black and white. In many cases, a series of coloured filters were applied, usually to indicate mood, while other directors, including one of the masters of early film, Georges Melies, employed artists, usually teams of women, to painstakingly hand colour his films frame by frame.

... My initial research included a study of historical Chinese women’s hairstyles. Reduced to shadow forms, however, the women could equally be from any place or time, including the present.

To read the full speech, my response to Marguerite Browns marvellous opening address, visit Moth Woman Press HERE.

Images 1-7 above: LEAVES OF ABSENCE with selected page views.
Image 8 below: Installation view at Melbourne Atheneum Library in 2017, followed by Image 9: Hand-painted eucalyptus leaves, the basis for the illustrations in the book. 

LEAVES OF ABSENCE is part of the three-person show ARTIST BOOKS & FOLIOS at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery, opening
 on September 20. Full details are below.